Interprofessional collaboration is to the health care industry what the concept of cross-training employees was, and still is, to the business world. It is intrinsically protective on multiple levels, and for that, health care providers will soon be thankful. While integrating new competencies into a long-standing system rarely yield immediate benefits, the application of interprofessional collaboration into the health care delivery model is doing just that; and the timing could not be better.

A changing field

The field of health care is changing in an unprecedented fashion. Along with these changes emerge new challenges. Of particular note is the impending physician shortage ahead. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a 46,000 — 90,000 shortage of physicians will occur by 2025. Furthermore, it is estimated that 4 million new health care jobs will emerge by 2022, with 1.13 million of them being nursing-specific and 30,000 being in health care administration. Therefore, the future of medicine is about to endure an influx of new health care workers from nursing to health care administrators to physicians.

Despite those sobering statistics, a stratification element exists as well. To add to the complexity of this new health care appearance, the baby boomer population is such that estimates predict a 500 percent increase in the 85-year-old and up population group. Therefore, the influx mentioned above must also address this growing concern. The need for geriatric specialists is self-evident from statistics alone. Again, interprofessional relationships and collaborations will be key to health care delivery success.

“All players on the health care team are equally important, although different in their functions and tasks.”

An integrative approach

Whereas some businesses were once composed of individuals confined to cubicle workspaces with no experience in running the job across the hall, many of those same businesses have now torn down the walls and cross-trained their employees in various aspects of related jobs as well. The end result is greater efficiency, greater productivity and more satisfied customers, due to each employee being more knowledgeable about the system in which they work as a whole and the roles for which each of their fellow employees is responsible.

Likewise, now is the time for us to recognize all the team players and the roles for which they are responsible in a new health care delivery system model. In this new collaborative work era, the vertical walls of hierarchical rankings have been rendered obsolete in favor of a more horizontal, integrative approach.

All players on the health care team are equally important, although different in their functions and tasks. While it is true that we may not be able to stop the impending physician shortage projected to occur by 2025, we can quite possibly limit or at least offset the consequences by recognizing and assisting our other health care team members and the invaluable roles they play. In doing this, we can help the system do what it is supposed to do — serve and care for the people.